To the Editor:

I am a retired teacher, a widow and a private landowner in Prentiss County in North Mississippi. I inherited part of my family’s small farm and live on it between Baldwyn and Booneville.

My parents worked very hard. They began with a small dairy farm, becoming one of the best Grade A dairies in North Mississippi. After the dairy business subsided, they purchased and raised beef cattle to continue to support our family and the land.

Like them, I try very hard to be the best steward of our family’s land that I can. My sons will own it one day and hopefully their children too. I apply for funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service but seldom get approved. I recently had a bad gully erosion problem that was causing me to lose topsoil, polluting the water downstream. When I couldn’t get financial assistance to help stop it, I paid almost $10,000 to fix it myself. That is a lot of money for a former teacher.

I am not pleased that the Mississippi Legislature is cutting private landowners out of the conservation equation. We often struggle to do the right thing on our land, and at our own cost. Just having some financial help to share the cost of conservation would make all the difference in the world. I rent out my 100 acres of cropland and all of that money goes to pay the land tax. I don’t understand why the government, especially the Mississippi Legislature, expects me and other small landowners to assume all of the burden of stewardship when there are many public benefits downstream. Why does the Legislature and Lieutenant Governor expect all of this from private landowners while rarely giving thought to how we can afford to provide clean water, wildlife habitat, and other public conservation benefits "free of charge?" It is a cost that can only be recovered through the cutting of trees, renting of the land, or selling it outright.

And while this may be possible for some private landowners, many small landowners continue to find it difficult, if not impossible, to be good stewards over such a long time. Add to this the uncertainty of regulations, it is easy to see why more and more small, private landowners are choosing to sell their lands, which are rapidly being developed and broken into smaller units that cannot sustain many of the public conservation benefits society depends upon.

It is my hope that the Mississippi Legislature can find a way to help landowners with conservation. I love to camp, but it makes no sense to me for the government to continue to buy more land for campgrounds when they can’t take care of what they have already bought. If I can’t afford to feed my dog or horse, I shouldn’t go buy another one.

Anna Marie Sallis

Baldwyn

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